March 15, 2006

Landed in Japan

I arrived in Japan yesterday. Filled out the forms for my foreigner registration card today, and got a new cell phone. I start work tomorrow, and am utterly exhausted right now (9:30pm local time.) Looks like if I can get a good night's sleep tonight, jetlag might not be a problem.

February 17, 2006

Ditching SpamAssassin, using GMail as a Spam Filter

So I run my own mailserver that serves,,, and The problem is, even after adding some extra rules to SpamAssassin, it really hasn't done a great job catching the spam, and worse it takes up a lot of RAM and CPU time on my virtual private server. The VPS is from, and is really great. Look them up if you are in the market.

Anyway, each email would take about 600 seconds to process. That is a long time, and worse it was really bogging down the other apps on the system, such as this blog, or the forum for

So what I've done is turn off SpamAssassin, and forwarded the email catch-all for each domain to my GMail account. That has been working very well. Since most of my spam goes to untargetted email addressess, or aliases that I send to the catch-all, GMail catches the spam, and I just have to check my GMail account once in a while to find stuff that got through. Also, I set up some filters on GMail to mark which domain the email came from.

I could take this a step farther, and have GMail forward email that makes it into the in-box back to one of my accounts here. If I did that though, I would need to add a rule to postfix to have it check the header, and deliver any GMail-forwarded mail locally. Right now that doesn't seem like much of a problem, so I'll skip that step.

Where in the world are the Evans kids?

My grandmother and mother have a problem. They don't know where us Evans kids are. We travel around a lot, and don't stay in one place for long. So I thought it would be a fun project to code up a PHP / MySQL web application that puts us on a Google Map. Of course, I want to make sure that if I'm going to go to all this trouble it will be a general system, so I did user sign-up and each user can have multiple maps.

I have not yet added access control, which is the biggest problem: once you are on the system, anyone can put you on their maps, and all of your maps are visible to everyone. Still, it works pretty well for what I want to do, and I don't think this is going to be a well-known thing so I'm not too worried about privacy concerns. I will try to put in some access control stuff though.

The code should be released under the GPLv2 once I get around to packaging it up. It is my first PHP coding project, so it is probably pretty ugly, but since I use Smarty (also my first time with that) and ADODB for database abstraction, I think it should be reasonable.

Check things out: Where in the world Are the Evans Kids?

February 14, 2006

Added simple comment spam protection

I've added simple comment spam protection to my bblog. Hopefully it will keep the spam bots from getting comments in that I need to moderate. I'll put installation instructions below.

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February 5, 2006

Installing mt-daapd to server iTunes music from Fedora Core 4 linux box

So I have a collection of music that I like to play using Amarok on my Fedora Core 4 linux laptop, and since I recently picked up a 15" PowerBook, I thought it would be fun to install a daap server.

I decided on mt-daapd (over daapd, but I can't really say why.) There are Fedora Core 4 packages available, but I also wanted to include AAC along with MP3 streaming ability, and that requires mpeg4ip. I couldn't find a packaged version of mpeg4ip around, but I was able to download the tarball and install it without too much trouble. The one catch is that it required ffmpeg-devel, which was not in fedora-extras, but it was in the freshrpms repository, so once I installed that I was golden.

Installing mt-daapd was simple, just a question of downloading the RPMs and installing them. I edited the mt-daapd.conf and mt-daapd.playlist files, added and entry in mDNRResponder.conf to advertise the server via HOWL, and started everything up. Fired up iTunes on the PowerBook, and the music was there. Nice.

February 4, 2006

Adding rules to SpamAssassin and keeping them up-to-date automatically

So I've been getting a lot of spam lately, and decided to add more rules to SpamAssassin. I found two nice solutions for automatically (via cron or the like) download new rulesets. I've decided to go with Maxime Ritter's rule-get perl script, which is like apt-get in many ways. It stuck the script in /usr/local/sbin in case I lose it. :)

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January 14, 2006

15" Aluminum PowerBook hard freezes

So I've had a 1.67 Ghz PowerPC 15" Aluminum PowerBook for about two months now, and am really enjoying it. I'll have some stuff to stay later about porting Java applications to Mac OSX and some problems I've had with that, but for the most part things have been working very well.

When I ordered my machine, I upgraded the RAM to 2 Gigabytes. That is really nice. The problem is that my machine will randomly (really randomly) hard freeze: the mouse won't move, and sound that was playing will loop for the length of the sound buffer, no movement at all on the screen, etc. The only thing that you can do is hold down the power button for about five second to force the machine to shut off. That is a real bummer. Worse, it seems to happen more when I'm doing work: programming large apps on Eclipse. I suspect that it has something to do with the memory, but I wasn't able to find any errors with the RAM running memtest and I tried many combinations of RAM sticks in different RAM slots. I was able to freeze things in any combination of RAM sticks (1 gig + stock 512mb, 2 gig, and even 1 gig alone) but I couldn't freeze it with just the 512mb stick. So something about the 1gig sticks is bad.

I took the machine down to the Apple store at the Willow Bend mall in Plano, but they were unable to find any problems. It looks like I might have to send the machine back to Apple to get this checked out. I'll have to think about when the best time to do that would be though.

49 hours in busses, planes, airports and taxis

So I left Kuala Lumpur on Tuesday morning, catching a bus to get back to Singapore. The bus ride, on Aeroline, took five hours to get to Singapore. We watched "The Princess Diaries." I can't believe that I watched "The Princess Diaries", but I did. Also, did you know that you have to go through customs and immigration when you pass from Malaysia to Singapore on a bus? Of course, that makes sense, but it just seems strange to go through immigration from a bus.

When I arrived in Singapore, I had to catch a cab to the airport, and then I had about six hours to wait until my flight to Korea. The airport at Singapore is very nice, they have free internet access (wired only though - wireless is pay) and lounges that come with power and ethernet. The plane ride to Korea was about 8 hours or so, from 10pm at night and we arrived at about 5:30am at Inchon airport in Korea.

I had a fourteen hour layover in Korea, and that was just terrible. I was able to access the internet using my Maxis broadband monthly service that I signed up for while I was there, but it wasn't economical because you have to pay a roaming charge. I tried to find places to sleep, and did find the nice commuter lounge, but it was pretty full. Even if it wasn't, I don't sleep well on a small half-sofa. If you are lucky though, you can push two of the sofas together and make yourself a pretty nice bed.

The flight from Korea to New York was about 12 or 14 hours. I forget. I was sitting next to a pretty big guy and he took up the armrest - through no fault of his own, he was just large - and I was already tired so it just wasn't very comfortable. At least I got to watch some Law and Order episodes before my laptop battery ran out.

About two hours before the flight ended, I walked forward to the bathroom (instead of back to the ones I had been using) and noticed that my friend Jung-yun was on the flight! She was flying back to New York after visiting her friends. How crazy is that!?

After getting our luggage, Jung-yun and I split a cab back to Manhattan, I arrived at my friend's place, and stopped the timer for the trip. Total time in airplanes, airports, taxis, and busses: 49 hours and 49 minutes.

January 1, 2006

Happy New Year!

Celebrated the New Year in Kuala Lumpur with Gyn-Ian Yap, Sue-Ling, Ken-Wei, and Elissa. Nice fireworks at Petronas towers, and then a crazy crowd trying to get into the subway to get home.

December 31, 2005

Coffee Shops in Malaysia

I'm currently in Kuala Lumpur visiting a friend of mine from my undergraduate days. I've been meaning to visit Yap for years, and since Kualu Lumpur is only a five hour bus ride from Singapore, I finally was able to make the trip here. I've really enjoyed Malaysia so far, Yap and his girlfriend Sue-Ling have been taking me all around to see the sights. It is strange for me because this is the first time my Christmas and New Year's celebrations have been hot and sweaty. I'm not sure that I'm cut out for this sort of humidity, and the sun certainly doesn't work well with me. I have enjoyed the nice internet access that I've been able to pick up in the coffee shops though.

December 24, 2005

Weddings in Singapore

I went to Singapore for my friend Min-Yen Kan's wedding on December 23rd. I met up with another Columbia researcher, Michelle Galley, and we had a blast running around Singapore doing touristy things. I don't approve of the Taxi system in Singapore though: we spent two hours trying to get one once. Singapore's Taxis have been a bit kinder to me than Malaysian taxis though.

November 24, 2005

2005 Dallas Turkey Trot

2005 Dallas Turkey Trot On Monday the 21st I arrived in Dallas from Tokyo. The flight went well, in particular since I requested a seat with a power plug, I was able to use my computer for about four hours, and the flight seemed to go quickly.

On Tuesday, I drove down to Austin to pick up Alana, and Wednesday we loaded up her can and drove back to Dallas. On the way we picked up our registration packets for the 2005 Dallas Turkey Trot fun run. Alana, Dad, and I were going to run the 5k fun run on Thursday morning.

We got up at about 7am on Thursday so we could catch the 7:15am DART train from Parker road. We figured that would be easier than driving downtown since there was supposed to be a lot of people showing up for this race. We missed our train by about two minutes and had to wait about half an hour for the next train. Lots of runners were showing up in the mean time. We were able to get a seat on the train, and boy were we lucky. But the time we had gone three stops, the train was packed with runners, and by the time we hit Mockingbird station there was no room for people to get on. (Or so they thought, a normal Toyoko line late night train would be at least twice as packed.)

We made it to the run, and there were 24,000 people there. It was packed. When we started our race it took about 6 minutes to get up to the starting line from where we were lined up. We all stuck together and took the run slowly, it was lots of fun. It ran right through downtown Dallas, and went by lots of historical points in Dallas. I made a Personal Best slow time at 51:50.

Afterwards, we had thanksgiving dinner which was nice. Our stove broke, so mom had to run out and buy a broiler for $30, and we cooked the turkey in that. It turned out fairly well, and probably we'll use the broiler for a while since it is very expensive to get a new stove.

November 13, 2005

Birthday Blood Typing

So I turned 31 today, in Japan. This is the second birthday I've had in Japan actually. Last time I was here for a conference in 2002 I believe, and it was not memorable. I believe that I bought myself a cup-cake at a convenience store or something.

This time, I had a memorable birthday. I met F. at Shinjuku for lunch, at "La Boheme Cafe", which was quite nice. After that we walked to the governmental building, which is constantly being destroyed by monsters in movies. We did some window shopping, and then came across a blood drive. I've been meaning to give blood for a while, since I don't know my blood type and would like to have it typed. Also, I like the idea of helping out people in need.

One reason I'm interested in knowing my blood type is because in Japan, people believe that one's personality is indicated by blood their blood type. I've been asked what my blood type is many times, and I never know. People are shocked. Anyway, I donated blood, and it turns out I'm type A. Sounds good to me. Now I know, and knowing is half the battle.

It's a birthday I won't soon forget!

October 21, 2005

SF2 scene at Shibuya's Game Kaikan

On Friday I decided to head over to my favorite arcade, the Shibuya Game Kaikan, and play some Street Fighter II: Hyper Fighting Anniversay Edition. Over on they call this one AE (Anniversary Edition) but I wonder what it is called in the states: there already was a Hyper Fighting over there.

Anyway, I got to the game kaikan at about 8pm, after a nice Little Spoon (my favorite Curry chain in Japan) dinner. Now, I love Super Street Fighter II Turbo, and I really like AE as well, since you get to play older versions of characters against the new ones. It's a fun game. Unfortunately, the past 8 years in New York didn't do much for my head-to-head skills. I probably only played ten or twenty games the whole 8 years in New York, despite having a ST machine available at the Chinatown Fair. So I tend to get my ass kicked. I probably win about 10% of my matches at the game kaikan.

I'm posting this a few days late, so I can't really comment on how I did. I think I won once with my T. Hawk, who I'm trying to get into playing shape. I'm trying to learn how to option select the crouching jab into piledriver, but I'm still not very good at that yet. I probably lost 15 times at least though, so I don't think an analysis of my play would be ver interesting.

I did, however, chat with a nice salaryman who plays a throw-happy grape Dhalsim. He's pretty good, but not great because I can hang with him to some extent. He was happy to chat with a white guy about SF2 though, so we spent quite a while talking strategy and commenting on the other players there. Two really stood out: a ST Zangief using the held-button black color, and a massive E. Honda who was nearly unstoppable. The Zangief was really good, and I thought that at least initially I could take him with my crappy Ryu, but that wasn't the case. His play was pretty limited, in that he didn't show much variation, but was very good at what he did. He would SPD at very, very long range. Whiff a roundhouse, receive a SPD. He also used the hopping punch from out of range to get into range and SPD. I've seen that before, but he was just really effective at using it. He knew the ranges really well, stayed far enough away to use the Lariat, invite a roundhouse or forward, the SPD you. I didn't think he was anything special, but he ran up a pretty good win streak, so I changed my mind as the evening went on.

The E. Honda was another story. He was just massive. I hadn't seen many E. Honda's there before, so this was pretty interesting to me. He used Honda's charge butt-drop move often, and used it to cross-over, then would tick into the command throw. He used the command throw really well, much more frequently than I had ever seen it used before. He would get at least two a round it seemed like. He also used Honda's super to get four hits off consistently, which is something that I wouldn't be able to do. He didn't ues the super often though, and of course was a master of the jumping fierce to wiggle over fireballs and such. Anyway, it was an impressive display.

October 17, 2005

Ikebana show

Ikebana pictures Fumie and I went to a large Ikebana show at the Takashimaya in Nihonbashi on Sunday.

October 13, 2005

Visit to Hiroshima City University

On Wednesday morning I went to Hiroshima City University (広島市立大学) and met with Professor Hidetsugu Nanba (難波 英嗣), and was introduced to Dr. Teruaki Aizawa (相沢 輝昭 先生). I gave my multi-lingual multi-document summarization talk, as well as a brief demo of NewsBlaster and a short talk about graduate student life at Columbia University. Professor Nanba and one of his students, Ms. Taniguchi, gave a talk about their work on PRESRI, an automated survey paper generation system, although currently it identifies survey papers.

Afterwards I met with some of the students, and saw a brief presentation on some of their hetergeneous database searching research that also uses some interesting citation analysis methods.

I had some Hiroshima Yaki (a type of okonomiyaki) at Micchan (a chain) at Hiroshima station. Then I caught my 6:30pm Nozomi to Tokyo, and arrived at Shin-Yokohama at 10:10pm. I wish they had electrical outlets so I could use my laptop for longer than the hour that the battery lasts, but I really like the Shinkansen rail system. It is very comfortable and convenient.

October 12, 2005

Trip to Hiroshima, do I have to change this website to

On Tuesday evening I took a train from Tsu to Nagoya, and from Nagoya to Hiroshima on a Hikari Shinkansen. The picture is actually of a Kodama Rail Star train from Hiroshima because the shot I got of my Nozomi 700 Series Shinkansen from Hiroshima to Tokyo didn't turn out well.

On arriving at Hiroshima, I met with Professor Hidetsugu Nanba (難波 英嗣 先生) for a very, very nice dinner. We ate at a place called きっ川, proprieter 吉川 修平 (Kikkawa Shyuuhei). It was a fresh seafood restaurant, small, and with a very nice personable atmosphere. Every dish is described and explained by Mr. Kikkawa before you eat it. I really enjoyed the dinner, it was just excellent. We also had a nice local Sake with the dinner, 雨後の月 (Ugono Tsuki).

The first course was a nice Sashimi, and then there was a baked fish and a stewed fish? There was a great tempura course, and as Mr. Kikkawa explained, the anago (conger eel) was caught earlier that morning by Mr. Tiger, a famous Anago fisherman in Hiroshima that has been catching them for 40 years. It is said that he catches the most delicious Anago. It certainly was delicious.

The next course was a soup with many interesting things, mostly mushrooms and oysters, but there was also Fugu. Yes, Fugu. The namesake of this site, which I've been running since about 2000, but of course I've wanted to try Fugu for much longer than that. Maybe I first heard of it in 1996, in my first long trip to Japan. So, I had the Fugu, and it was delicious. Now, do I have to buy the domain (FuguTabetai means "I want to eat Fugu", FuguTabeta would mean "I ate Fugu".)

So if you are ever in Hiroshima, I highly recommend Kikkawa. The phone number there is (082) 241-0002, but you had better know Japanese if you call there. It is a small place, so reservations are recommended.


Lab visit at Mie Daigaku (三重大学)

Tuesday I visisted Dr. Masui (桝井先生) at Mie Daigaku. He introduced me to Dr. Atsuo Kawai (河合 敦夫 先生) and I was able to see some demonstrations of the research that they are doing. They have some very interesting work on identifying errors in Japanese and English (particles and determiners respectively) and some interesting Q&A work, as well as automatically learning features for nouns from the internet. Some of the Q&A work uses patterns, similar to Sasha's genus / type identification for ACQUAINT.

October 11, 2005

Trip to Tsu and Ise Jinguu

On Monday morning I caught the Kanki 3 train to Tsu (津) and met with Professor Nanba of Mie Daigaku. He and two of his students (Naito, who was very talkative, and another student who was not as talkative) took me to Ise Jinguu (伊勢神宮). Ise Jinguu is a very large temple, one of the main ones in Japan, that has a "moving shrine" that is destroyed and re-built in a new location every 30 years I believe. There are two main grounds, the outer temple (外宮) and the inner temple (内宮). We visited and walked around both.

Before we went to Naiku, we stopped at Okage yokocho, an area of lots of little shops and restaurants. We had a nice gyuudon for lunch, and then went on to the Naiku temple. It was really impressive: the grounds are just huge. And, they have lots of nice places to store rice.


October 10, 2005

Visit to Nittaiji in Nagoya

On Sunday, I visisted Nittaiji temple in Nagoya with the Maedas, and we also saw a small local Matsuri aimed at kids. It was very interesting. Nittaiji had some interesting Buddhist artifacts that were donated by the King of Thailand, according to what I could understand. So maybe that isn't really the case. The five-level pagoda was built about five years ago, so it was interesting for me to hear that new construction of traditional temples still continues. That probably shouldn't have surprised me though.

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